Chapter 1217: Endless Darkness!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
“Milord, we will arrive at Qixi in just a few hundred li!”
At this moment, the familiar voice of a Wushang horseman rang out in Wang Chong’s ear. It had been three days since they had left Suiye, and they were finally about to reach Qixi.
All of the group felt a vast array of emotions. They had set out from Qixi, and now, they were finally coming back.
Flap flap! At this moment, the sounds of a flying bird could be heard rapidly approaching the group. Everyone’s minds were frozen as they turned their heads to see an Arabian hunting falcon soaring through the sky. When it was still several dozen feet from the ground, it suddenly turned and dropped onto Zhang Que’s shoulder.
Let alone Xue Qianjun and Xu Keyi, even Zhang Que was stunned by the sight of this hunting falcon. Contrary to what they had imagined, this hunting falcon was not from the capital, but from behind them. The only place this letter could have come from at a time like this was the distant Khorasan.
Everyone’s eyes widened in shock.
As the others watched, Zhang Que opened the letter, but barely moments after reading it, his entire body trembled as if he had been struck by lightning, his face turning pale and bloodless.
“Mi-Milord! It’s bad! There’s a problem in Khorasan!”
Zhang Que raised his head and stared with wide and panicked eyes at Wang Chong. Even though they had known Zhang Que for so long, they had never seen such an expression on his face before.
Wang Chong immediately took the letter from Zhang Que, and after glancing it over, he too became ghastly pale.
The letter had been sent by Su Hanshan from Khorasan, and it mentioned several matters.
Not long after Wang Chong had left Khorasan, those middle-aged Confucian experts had quickly taken control over Khorasan and begun to work together with that official surnamed Wen to accomplish several tasks.
The first was that they had gone around Gao Xianzhi and Feng Changqing to sign a treaty with Mutasim III, with the Great Tang and Arabia declaring that they would never war against each other.
Secondly, the Great Tang had promised to return seven hundred million taels of gold to Arabia to express its sincerity. In exchange, Arabia had promised to accept the Confucian school and allow it to establish Confucian schools in every region of the Arabian Empire and spread Confucianism without limit.
Thirdly, the Great Tang promised to withdraw its army from Khorasan, all its soldiers and ballistae, and no longer participate in any conflict between the Sassanid Dynasty and the Arabian Empire.
Upon seeing the first matter, Wang Chong had slightly paled. At the second, his breathing had become ragged. By the third, his face was as white as a sheet of paper. He had never imagined that so many things could have happened in such a short time period. Arabia was an empire founded on war, a country of wolves and tigers. Peacefully coexisting with Arabia was a fantastical dream, like climbing a tree in hopes of finding fish.
The first matter of making peace with Arabia was letting go of an excellent opportunity, but Wang Chong could have found a way to fix that.
The second matter of returning seven hundred million taels of gold, reversing the enormous economic damage Wang Chong had managed to inflict through his hard-fought victories, was truly devastating, but it was just gold that could be taken back in the future. But it was the third condition, the Great Tang withdrawing its army and all its ballistae from Khorasan, never to interfere in the conflicts between the Arabian Empire and the Sassanid Dynasty, that truly struck a blow. This was pulling up by the roots and annihilating everything Wang Chong and the Tang soldiers had worked for!
Wang Chong had expended enormous efforts to set up a base in Khorasan that could eternally suppress Arabia’s threat to the Central Plains, and now, it felt like the ground had been cut from under his feet!
All of Wang Chong’s efforts were now gone… meaningless!
‘At the age of thirty, my deeds are naught but dust, my journey will be of eight thousand li, the clouds and moon my companions1’…
At this moment, Wang Chong’s entire body was trembling and he felt like the world was spinning around him.
“Warning! Special Event! A major and unexpected event has appeared in user’s mission ‘Empire’s Choice’. The mission is not yet complete, and the war between the Great Tang and Arabia not yet over. User is penalized 5000 points of Destiny Energy!”
At this moment, the Stone of Destiny’s voice rang out in his mind. The sound of this voice was like a lightning bolt striking his body.
Wang Chong’s vision went black and he vomited blood.
Upon seeing this sight, Xue Qianjun, Xu Keyi, Cheng Sanyuan, Zhang Que, and the Wushang Cavalry immediately paled in alarm and madly rushed up to help him, all of them in a state of panic.
“How could it be like this?
“Why did this happen? Was everything we did for nothing?”
Wang Chong fiercely roared in such agitation that he lost consciousness and knew nothing.
Darkness, endless darkness!
Wang Chong felt like his soul was drifting in endless cold and darkness, with nothing to anchor himself on and countless thoughts floating past him.
“Ah! Give me back my child…”
Wang Chong saw a sea of flames, and a woman in the middle of the flames, wailing as she gripped the body of her child. Countless collapsed buildings surrounded her, countless corpses fallen in pools of blood.
“Milord, we’ve lost! The Central Plains have been destroyed. We can no longer go back…”
A moment later, Wang Chong saw a half-collapsed peak of a mountain. Countless subordinates were seated around him, blood pouring from their foreheads, eyes, ears, and noses, rivers of blood gathered beneath their armor. The despair in their eyes stabbed into Wang Chong’s heart.
The rivers and lakes had been shattered, the earth turned to ash. One scene after another of endless fire and blood flitted through his mind, each one unleashing waves of pain and suffering on his soul.
At the end, when the entire world was splintering apart and collapsing, Wang Chong finally couldn’t help but cry out, suddenly waking from his slumber. All was quiet around him, and after what seemed like both a second and like countless epochs, Wang Chong heard a soft voice and the splashing of water. A moment later, Wang Chong felt a wetness on his forehead, as if someone was using a moist towel to gently wipe his forehead, cheeks, and neck.
The arm’s movements were gentle and meticulous.
A ripple swept through his mind. For some reason, Wang Chong felt the owner of this arm to be extremely familiar. Wang Chong tried to open his eyes and see who it was. But a moment later, his mind was deluged by aches and pains as he regained control over his senses.
A gentle voice carrying a slight tremor came into his ear. Wang Chong opened his eyes and then slightly closed them again, somewhat blinded by the light. As he grew accustomed to the light, he began to make out a familiar figure.
Xu Qiqin slightly nodded and smiled. Her face was pale, her eyes red, and she seemed much thinner. As Xu Qiqin looked at Wang Chong, a hint of pity and heartache flashed through her eyes.
“Qiqin, where is this?”
Wang Chong put his hand behind him and tried to get up. His voice was hoarse and sounded extremely weak.
Xu Qiqin lightly pressed Wang Chong back down.
“You’re still very weak right now and need time to rest. You shouldn’t be moving around just yet.”
Wang Chong froze, and then he remembered something and fell quiet. After a long while, he asked, “Qiqin, how long have I been unconscious?”
Xu Qiqin’s body trembled, and it took a few moments for her to finally speak.
“You’ve been unconscious for three days!”
The room immediately fell silent, and Wang Chong became like a statue. He had never expected that this spell of unconsciousness would have lasted three days.
It was so quiet that one could hear a needle drop. Xu Qiqin felt her heart ache as she gazed upon Wang Chong’s silent form. She knew everything, and only someone who knew just how many lives Wang Chong had sacrificed would understand what he was feeling.
In the space of several days, several months of battle had been fought for naught and all sacrifices had become meaningless. No one could more sorrowful than Wang Chong at this moment.
But at this moment, Xu Qiqin said nothing. She keenly understood that Wang Chong did not need anyone’s comfort, but a person’s clear-minded thought.
After what seemed like an eternity, Wang Chong gave a long sigh and came back to his senses.
Seeing Wang Chong’s pale face, Xu Qiqin once more felt a tinge of pain and unconsciously lifted her hand with the intention of wiping Wang Chong’s face. But before Xu Qiqin could take back her hand, she felt a chill feeling on her arm. A hand had clenched her slender wrist.
“Qiqin, you’ve gotten thinner!”
It was still Wang Chong’s familiar voice, yet it made Xu Qiqin grieve.
Xu Qiqin did her best to keep a calm tone. She had originally believed that Wang Chong would first worry about Khorasan upon awakening. Unexpectedly, however, Wang Chong had asked about her. This sent a surge of warmth through Xu Qiqin’s body, but she only felt even more stricken with sorrow.
She knew that the calmer and more composed Wang Chong seemed, the more aggrieved he was.
“Qiqin, there’s no need for you to worry about me!”
Wang Chong gazed at the person he loved, reached out with a palm, and gently patted Xu Qiqin’s emaciated cheeks. From the moment he had set out from Qixi, he had been completely immersed in the war with Arabia, where the fates of two empires were on the line. Only now did Wang Chong suddenly realize that he had forgotten about the person behind him.
Wang Chong’s actions took Xu Qiqin completely by surprise. Finally, the ill Xu Qiqin blushed and lowered her head.
“What are you doing?”
As silence reigned in the room, a sudden ruckus from outside drew the pair’s attention away.
1. The quotation is from the poem ‘满江红’, a Song Dynasty poem often attributed to the patriotic Song Dynasty general Yue Fei, who fought to regain the north from the Jurchen Jin Dynasty but was hampered and eventually executed by his political opponents in the court, who favored peace.↩